Culture plays a very large role in determining how we behave and how we view the world. Having a better understanding, not only of our own culture, but of other cultures, goes a long way in helping prevent miscommunication and conflict.
Cultural competency, which is different from cultural immersion or cultural fluency, refers to the ability to recognize when culture might be playing a role in any miscommunication or conflict.
Once there is recognition of the possibility, cultural competency involves raising this possibility with the people who are experiencing miscommunication or some sort of issue.
Any conflict resolver wants to strive for cultural competency, and people sometimes think this requires cultural immersion. However, cultural immersion is long-term constant contact with the norms, traditions, and worldviews of any particular culture.
Most of us don't have an opportunity to become totally immersed in a culture that way, so cultural immersion is not necessary to be culturally competent.
Likewise, cultural fluency isn’t required to achieve cultural competency. Cultural fluency is the ability to function in a culture like a native. This might sound a lot like cultural immersion, but it can be contextual.
EXAMPLELet's say you marry into a culture. Simply by spending time with your in-laws in various situations that bring you very closely into the culture, you can grow to be fluent in that culture.
Cultural fluency doesn't necessarily mean long-term immersion, but rather just becoming very familiar with the culture.
Again, being culturally competent doesn't mean that you have to be fluent in the culture; you simply need to be able to recognize that there might be cultural issues at play, and then be able to bring them up.
This requires being aware of worldview, and that worldviews differ. As you’ve learned, worldview is the way we see the world. Everybody has a worldview; we come from a culture with a particular worldview, and that's how we interpret the world.
Our worldview is how we judge what is right, correct, and normal. Thus we tend to think that the way we do things, our own particular worldview, is the “right way” and universally true for everyone.
But worldviews differ, and cultural competency is being able to recognize worldview and avoid stereotyping.
As you may know, stereotyping is the belief that trends or traits that you see describe everyone, and not recognizing that every culture, every worldview, is made up of people, some of whom aren't going to fit in a certain mold.
We're all individuals, so a worldview doesn't absolutely describe every person in the same way; people can differ in the way they interpret things.
To be culturally competent, we must be aware that every culture has a worldview. We can often see these worldviews expressed through a culture’s music, proverbs, art, or literature. We need to recognize worldview, but steer clear of stereotyping.
To recognize worldview effectively as a mediator in a conflict resolution situation, you need to be able to raise the possibility that culture could be at play.
A good way to do that is through questions. If you suspect something cultural could be at play, ask a question for the parties to consider.
You could paraphrase something you heard, or reflect your understanding of something to make sure you have it correct in order to pose the possibility that a cultural issue could be at play.
The idea is to build bridges between parties by creating a discussion and mutual understanding. Therefore, the worst thing that you could do would be to to say something that could sound like a blaming or stereotypical statement of a culture.
Instead of saying something that you think might be true, but perhaps isn’t, the following are much better ways to build that bridge and initiate discussion:
Source: Adapted from Sophia tutorial by Marlene Johnson.